Three-way talks fail to pull Syria back from brink


Surprise talks Thursday among U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, her Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, and U.N. peace envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi ended without any decisions to halt the conflict.

Brahimi said all three agreed the situation in Syria was “very, very, very bad” during the 40-minute meeting in Dublin on the sidelines of an international gathering, but “no sensational decisions” were reached.

Amid fears the 21-month conflict may take a gruesome new turn and see President Bashar Assad’s regime unleash chemical weapons, Brahimi said he discussed with Clinton and Lavrov “how we can work out hopefully a process that will get Syria back from the brink.” The United States has been urging Russia to use its leverage with Assad to try to open the way toward a political transition, although Washington has insisted the leader will have to step down.

A U.S. State Department official said it was “a constructive discussion” and added that the “next step will be a meeting in the next few days between Brahimi and senior officials from the United States and Russia.”

Brahimi told reporters that the three had agreed to put together a peace process based on the Geneva accord previously adopted under joint U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan.

Proregime troops meanwhile waged fierce assaults on rebels around Syria on Thursday, shelling Douma and Zabadani to the northeast of Damascus and Daraya and Moadamiyet al-Sham to the southwest.

An opposition activist said government forces are advancing little by little into Daraya, although the rebel Free Syrian Army is fighting hard to keep them out of the town. At the same time, clashes took place in Irbin to the east, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The British-based watchdog group said the violence had claimed at least 57 people nationwide. Since the uprising began in March 2011, the Observatory has tallied more than 42,000 deaths, most of them civilians.